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Old 01-05-2012, 10:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Berger on Casey & the Raps

The timing of Andrei Kirilenko's announcement Saturday that he intends to play the entire season with CSKA Moscow was curious, considering the Russian forward still had another week to opt out for a return to the NBA without his new team being on the hook for the standard $500,000 buyout. Sources say the Raptors, who could use Kirilenko's production and versatility at the small forward position, were among the teams that registered inquiries with Kirilenko's representatives. But the Raptors took a pass and opted to preserve 2012 cap flexibility as new coach Dwane Casey tries to establish a new defensive culture in a transition year for the franchise.
Speaking of Casey, the former Mavs' defensive guru, early returns have been positive in his effort to gradually transform the perennially deficient Raptors defense into a serviceable one. Toronto (3-3) is 14th in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 99.3 points per 100 possessions after being dead last a year ago with 109.8. "It's one of the toughest things you have to do in sports, whether it's football, baseball or basketball, is to change an offensive-minded team into a defensive-minded team," Casey said. "We had to do it in Dallas. Avery Johnson had started that process, and we kind of got in the middle of it." Casey equates the challenge of instilling a defensive mentality in his offensive star, Andrea Bargnani, to the process he went through with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas. "Dirk was a great offensive player, but by the end he was talking defense," Casey said. "That's the process we're going to go through here. ... I'm selling it every day, the guys are buying it right now and the proof is in the pudding."
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